Introducing Organizational Behavior
The Tonight Show: Things Don't Always Go as Planned
The peacock was feeling the heat.
Affiliate station owners were grumbling to NBC that The Jay Leno Show, the comedian's new prime-time project after passing the Tonight Show torch to Conan O'Brien, was bad for ratings and would turn off viewers. Even worse, Leno's show wasn't on the air yet.
High-ranking NBC exec Jeff Zucker, having earlier turned around The Today Show, offered a deal. Leno takes Conan's slot but is shortened to 30 minutes. Conan keeps The Tonight Show but moves to midnight. The deal: It came together like an “after-school special on the Don'ts of leadership transitions,” noted HR consultant J.P. Elliot.
a “Jay Leno vs. Conan O'Brien: When Succession Planning Goes Very, Very Wrong.” Managing the Curve. Posted 1/14/10, www.managingthecurve.com/jay-leno-vs-conan-obrien-when-succession-planning-goes-veryvery-wrong. Accessed 12/30/10. The result: A PR nightmare dubbed The Jaypocalypse. Public trash-talking by all parties. And the defection of a serious chunk of viewers with strong brand loyalty and purchasing power. “So what does NBC do? If you are making buggy whips and no one is buying buggies anymore, do you keep making buggy whips?”
b “Jay Leno
Talks Back: An Exclusive Interview with B&C.” Broadcasting & Cable. Posted 11/2/09, 2:00 AM. http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/366971Jay_Leno_Talks_Back_An_Exclusive_Interview_With_B_C.php-Jay Leno Talks Back: An Exclusive Interview with B C.php. Accessed 12/30/10.
Only one day after the deal was announced, Conan released his earnest “People of Earth” statement, quickly winning fans, a visible majority of fellow comedians, and, seemingly, almost everyone on Twitter. In contrast, Leno often appeared befuddled in interviews, with only Jerry Seinfeld and Oprah supporting him in the press.
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Introducing Organizational Behavior
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The aftermath: Eight months later, Leno was back behind the Tonight Show desk. Conan had a home on TBS. NBC was down viewers, sponsors, and cash, having paid $43 million to break Conan's contract. The lesson to be learned: “The real culprit here,” says consultant Elliot, “[is] NBC's lack of ability to execute their succession plan.” But just whose failure was that? Perhaps that's a question best answered by Jeff Zucker as he ponders the complexities of human behavior in organizations. Quick Summary
• After five years of waiting, Conan O'Brien takes the reins of The Tonight Show from Jay Leno. • Leno, unwilling to step away, launches a prime-time talk show. Affiliates complain even before the show airs. • To rescue Leno, NBC Universal proposes bumping Conan to 12:05 A.M., Leno to 11:35 P.M. Public acrimony ensues.
• NBC Universal spends an estimated one-third of the cost of breaking Leno's contract to fire Conan. Leno's show airs, sputters. O'Brien sells out a 30-city comedy tour before launching Conan on TBS. FYI:
1. Time for Conan O'Brien's Twitter followers to surpass Jay Leno's: under 60 minutes. c “Conan O'Brien Joins Twitter: New Account EXPLODES with Followers.” The Huffington Post. Posted 2/24/10, 6:16 PM. www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/24/conan-obrien-joins-twitte_n_475722.html. Retrieved 12/29/10.
2. Cost of breaking Leno's NBC contract: Estimated $150 million. Cost of breaking Conan's NBC contract: $45 million.
d “Conan's $32m leap for joy,” New York Post. Posted 1/20/10, 4:09 AM. www.nypost.com/p/news/national /conan_leap_for_joy_Xem23v4HiRTwOPWPs3HKiL. Retrieved 12/29/10.
People in all of their rich diversity are the basic building blocks of organizations. Everyone deserves to be respected at work and to be satisfied with their jobs and accomplishments. Problems like those with the Tonight...
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